Research news: about learning, work environment, crisis and endangered species

Research news give hints of some of the interesting studies conducted in different fields.

Social sciences

How to make children learn better while tinkering?

Children acquire new knowledge during their daily activities, for instance, by engaging in experiments and discussions with their parents. In a study, children and parents were observed at a museum's tinkering lab while constructing a vehicle to find out to what extent their willingness to experiment depends on how the task has been set up. The conclusion was that both children and adults made more frequent and bolder changes to the vehicle when, in addition to the task, they were given an important piece of knowledge to bear in mind while testing (e.g. "For your car to roll, either the axle needs to spin or the wheels need to spin freely."). Children's later narrative reflections of their tinkering experience revealed another finding: the more children tested, the more elements of the scientific method were included in their narrative, and the better they formulated their learning experience.

Read more in the article.

Further information: Pirko Tõugu, Research Fellow of Developmental Psychology,


Work environment of people working from home due to COVID-19 restrictions is worse and their level of physical activity is lower

COVID-19 restrictions caused a sudden change in the work culture and environment. This study aimed to evaluate the impact of the related changes on musculoskeletal pain, physical activity, workplace properties and relationships among office workers. 161 Estonian office workers participated in the survey by completing an online questionnaire to evaluate their work environment and compare it to the situation three months before. Analysis revealed that the environmental changes caused by restrictions did not significantly impact the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain but did reduce physical activity and exercise. Also, the employees' ratings of their workplace comfort and ergonomics were lower at the home office. The study concluded that for a healthier transition to working from home, it is crucial to maintain a habitual physical activity level and prepare a more comfortable and ergonomic workspace.

Read more in the article.

Further information: Martin Argus, doctoral student in Medicine,
Mati Pääsuke, Professor of Kinesiology and Biomechanics,

Arts and humanities

Guidelines prepared by researchers help hospitals in the COVID-19 crisis divide limited resources

University of Tartu researchers analysed the principles of sharing limited medical resources and looked at other countries' clinical ethics experiences. Based on this, research-based guidelines were created for Estonian hospitals to cope with the COVID-19 crisis. The guidelines are used, for example, by the North Estonia Medical Centre, which has experienced a very heavy workload during the crisis.

Further information: Margit Sutrop, Professor of Practical Philosophy,
Kadri Simm, Associate Professor of Practical Philosophy,

Science and Technology

What happens if endangered species disappear?

The disappearance of endangered vertebrates is not merely an ethical tragedy but can significantly impact ecosystems. A global analysis of 50,000 vertebrate species shows that as endangered species disappear, the functional diversity of communities is reduced by up to 30%, mainly in Asia and Europe. Knowing this, nature conservation should be planned in such a way as to ensure that the species that play unique ecological roles in the area are preserved.

Further information: Marko Mägi, Research Fellow in Bird Ecology,